This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
Such communication as South India had with the rest of the world, must of necessity have been across the ocean. The early navigators of the Indian Ocean seem to have been many, and the history of this subject is only very partially worked for the satisfactory reason that the material that exists for such work is at the very best, scanty. The Egyptian efforts under the Pharaohs have reference only to the coasts of Arabia and of Africa, certainly as far down as Somaliland, and it may be much farther down towards Zanzibar. The expedition to Punt under the eleventh dynasty and before then, had for their object various articles of value to the Egyptians.1 The most famous of this enterprise under the Pharaohs is the great expedition sent out by the great Queen Hatsheput. It had for its object the bringing of quantities of gold, incense and other articles, much prized in Egypt. They are all of them represented on her monument at Der al-Bahri.2 It is possible to refer some of these articles to India; but most of them are obtainable in the region of the Somali coast. It is the enterprise of Alexander which found its visible embodiment in the founding of Alexandria, that gave an additional stimulus to this navigation of the Indian Ocean. Patrocles, an officer of Seleueus I and his son, sailed the Indian Seas, and under the Ptolemies, great efforts were made to open the Red Sea trade with the East. It is put down to the credit of Ptolemy-Philadelphus that he cut out a canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea either newly or by opening out an old channel. As a necessary corollary to this, he founded a number of ports on the Red Sea. Among these foundations, Arsinoe of Ptolemy near the Suez and Berenice, lower down on the
1 H. R. Hall; the Ancient History of the East, p. 147. 2 Breasted, History of Egypt, pp. 274-5.
Red Sea coast, appear most prominent. Almost up to the time of the Roman conquest however, trade seems to have been carried on even in Indian commodities from the great exchange marts of Arabia Felix or, as the Greeks called it, Euda3mon, that is, the coast district round Aden. The discovery of blue cloth wrapped round the mummies, recently excavated,1 and the further discovery that they were all dyed blue with Indian indigo is clear evidence of Indian trade, but not necessarily of communication with India. With the Roman conquest of Egypt, a new impetus is given to this eastern trade and we come upon a new era of nautical enterprise on this side of Egypt.